Fwd = X-43A dress rehearsal flight successful
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Original Date: Tue, 1 May 2001 14:48:57 -0700
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X-43A dress rehearsal flight successful
1 May 2001
The NASA X-43A hypersonic research vehicle and its Pegasus booster
rocket, mounted beneath the wing of their B-52 mother ship, has
had a successful first captive-carry flight. A dress rehearsal for
the subsequent free flight, the captive-carry flight kept the
X-43A-and-Pegasus combination attached to the B-52's wing pylon
throughout the almost two-hour mission from NASA's Dryden Flight
Research Centre, Edwards in California, over the Pacific Missile
Test Range, and back to Dryden.
X-43A-and-Pegasus combination attached to a B-52 wing pylon
The unpiloted X-43A marks the return to dedicated hypersonic
research flights (at least five times the speed of sound) that
NASA last pursued with the X-15 programme that ended in 1969.
Unique to the X-43A is its blending of an integrated airframe with
a scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine, intended to make
the X-43A the first air-breathing hypersonic vehicle in free
flight. This technology promises significant savings in weight and
volume, which could translate into heavier payloads or longer
flight duration for future scramjet operational craft.
If the evaluation of all flight data warrants it, the first flight
of the X-43A "stack" could come as early as mid-May. The first
free flight will be air-launched by NASA's B-52 at about 24,000
feet altitude. The booster will accelerate the X-43A to Mach 7 to
approximately 95,000 feet altitude. At booster burnout, the X-43
will separate from the booster and fly under its own power on a
preprogrammed flight path. The hydrogen-fueled aircraft has a
wingspan of approximately 5 feet, measures 12 feet long and weighs
about 2,800 pounds.
Three X-43A flights are planned; the first two will fly at Mach 7
and the third at Mach 10. Performance data will be relayed
electronically to Dryden and Langley. Each experimental aircraft
will fly once in the Naval Air Warfare Centre Weapons Division Sea
Range off the southern coast of California and impact into the
Programme officials anticipate that this series of experimental
flights will expand knowledge of hypersonic aerodynamics and
develop new technologies for safer and more cost effective space
access. Today's rocket-powered launch vehicles, including the
Space Shuttle, must carry their own oxygen adding considerable
weight, complexity and cost to each flight.
A scramjet-based propulsion system could decrease propellant
system weight and increase payload -- or maintain the same payload
using a smaller, cheaper vehicle. Scramjet technology could also
allow "aircraft-like" operations of launch vehicles with
horizontal take-off, landing and servicing that could greatly
decrease operations cost and time between flights.
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